Tom & Cassandra―A Blended Family Dr. Carol Ann Conrad, EdD

Tom and Cassandra had painful previous relationships and were both dedicated parents trying to raise children on their own when they met and married each other. For the first several years of their relationship things went well as they worked together to blend and support their family, though there was growing tension as one of their sons, Ryan, struggled in school with behavioral problems. As Tom tried to provide for the family to make ends meet, Cassandra felt increasingly alone to manage Ryan and the other children. As the tension and worry increased, they began to draw “enemy” lines between the two families and found themselves caught in an angry and hurtful pattern of accusations and distrust. The bond that once held them together raising children, now separated them.

With my help they were able to see the way that they were caught in a spin cycle that made them both feel unsafe and tore them apart. Cassandra felt all alone and in desperate need of Tom’s help and support, but only knew how to tell him her anger, not her more vulnerable feelings of longing and desire for him. Tom felt hurt, rejected and inadequate to comfort her. The more he felt inadequate, the more he withdrew. The more he withdrew the more Cassandra felt he didn’t care and was hurt and angry.

As I helped create a safe and supportive environment, I encouraged them to share with one another how much they really cared and needed each other, how much they were afraid of being vulnerable and being hurt again like they were in previous relationships. With supportive interventions from me, they began to bridge the gap, and to realize that they needed to come together against the real “enemy” the cycle of aloneness and inadequacy they were unwittingly creating together. Suddenly they began to realize they could stop the cycle since they were the ones that created it, and drop the walls between them that only increased the fear and separation. A new pattern of understanding and love began to emerge as they began to repair their bond. They were able to bond together at a deep level, as they each took turns in accessing their deeper emotions and sharing with one another in a way they had never shared. Their love grew visibly in and then between sessions to create a more secure connection with each other. As we then revisited old problems from a more secure place, they resolved their step family issues in a way that brought the entire family together and erased the “dotted line” they originally came in concerned about. We then reviewed their progress and changes as they discovered a new way to draw lines with each other and around their children. They had moved from “enemy lines” to a “circle of love.”

All stories are from real couples who have given permission to have their stories written. Names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.